Recently I was a subpoenaed witness in a nasty child custody battle at the California Superior Court at 400 McAllister Street in San Francisco. This is what the case was about. The child’s parents separated before she was born and her mother expected to keep primary custody but the father filed for it when she was six weeks old. His reason was that the mother has an apparent mental health condition that is untreated. The mother doesn’t realize that she has a problem and she thinks that he filed for custody in order to avoid paying her for child support. The court handled it like a generic turf war between bitter exes. The judge never ordered mental health treatment for the mother. Finally, when the child turned 2 1/2 years old, the father summoned several witnesses to testify that the mother is mentally ill. The child’s pediatrician, the mother’s former boss, her former roommate, and the father’s friends who knew her all testified in court about her behavior. Her defense attorney attempted to impeach every witness and she never offered to seek treatment for her. She truly believes that her client is normal and that all of the witnesses are lying.
I went to court four times. I wanted to keep in mind that the child will need her mother regardless of the severity of her mental condition, and so at every hearing I wore my mom’s gold locket necklace that contains my picture that was taken while I was at the center of my parents’ custody battle, which ended in my dad taking full custody a few months later. I loved my dad but it was hard to grow up without a mother, and that’s what I wanted to remember while I was on the witness stand testifying against the child’s mother. It was important to me to inform the court about the mother’s behavioral problems in a productive manner.
It did not work out that way. Both attorneys adamantly refused to let me mention her need for treatment and so my testimony sounded like I had a vendetta against her which was not the case at all. I want her to check into a hospital. To compound the situation, her defense attorney tried desperately to destroy my credibility as a witness so that I would be impeached. She was extremely unprofessional. She laughed out loud while I was being examined by the plaintiff’s attorney. When it was her turn to ask questions, she repeated the same questions over a dozen times, hoping that eventually I’d give her a different answer. She desperately tried to put words in my mouth by beginning every question with a statement, and her statements were always false. She asked me ridiculous personal questions that had nothing to do with the case. The attorney’s name is Annie Thorkelson in San Francisco. In order to cope with the situation I removed my glasses so that I couldn’t see her or the child’s mother while I was on the witness stand. To help me stay focused on the reason that I was there, I took off my mom’s locket and held it in my hand in front of me.
My biggest disappointment about that case is that the child’s father and his attorney blew me off when they subpoenaed me and I told them that I wanted them to ask the judge to order treatment for the child’s mother. To them the case was about taking custody and they didn’t care if the child’s mother got treatment or not. From their perspective, her illness tilts the scales of justice in their favor because it makes it easier for them to win custody.
I got so fed up that I complained to the California State Bar Association. I explained that the defense attorney tried to impeach me while I was trying to tell the judge that the child’s mother is sick and needs treatment, and then I complained that both attorneys on the case refused to let me mention it.
Will the judge figure it out on her own? If not than what could the future hold for the child?